Love life, when loving's hard

Have you ever wondered why relationships hurt so much? Why the promises of never-ending bliss seem to never come to fruition (at least for you)? How come it is so hard to love the people with whom loving is supposed to come easy?

I think many of us come into adulthood with a naïve understanding of how relationships work, even if we grew up in homes where relationships were anything but helpful or loving. We often expect more than is possible, while giving less than expected.

Why is this?

To put it bluntly, the curse that entered on the heels of sin. In Genesis 2:14-19 we hear God describe how blessing had turned to curse for those dwelling on the earth. Pain in childbirth, struggle with relationships, toil in work…all of these curses describe why relationships are so damn hard. Nothing comes easy now; not parenting, not marriage, not work. Only in toil and sweat do we gain any ground in our work, as well as in our love life.

This should come as no surprise to you, and yet, most of us forget to frame it in this way. The typical response to pain in relationship is to blame one’s spouse, “IF they would just ____, this wouldn’t be so hard”, or blame one’s kids, work, or circumstances. It’s important for you to remember that your enemy is not your spouse, how they do or don’t do life a certain way. Sure, life would definitely be a bit easier if they’d clean up after themselves, stick to the budget, come home on time, pay more attention, but the burden would remain the same.

When we focus on our spouse as our relationships’ demise, we lose our partnership, and thus we begin to lose our relationship. The good news is that God didn’t leave us in this mess without other options.

Bessel dan der Kolk, author of ‘The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’, frames it this way:

“Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being.”

If you read the Epistles you notice a consistent call to arms as we fight to love one another. Love never comes easy, remember that you pursue it in a cursed environment, but love is always the goal and reward.

In James 5 we learn that the prayer, listening ear, and touch of those who are loved by God brings about powerful healing. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul teaches that as interdependent members of one body, we suffer together and rejoice together, and in the midst of our oneness we find care and healing, identity and purpose, unity and strength. In Ephesians 3 Paul prays to the Father that they (we) would have the strength to know the height, depth and width of the love of Christ, through the empowering work of the Spirit.

Love does not come easy, nor will it ever on this side of glory.

I encourage you to pray for the power of the Spirit to enable you to experience the love of Jesus, and then pray for the Spirit to empower you to love your spouse, children, neighbor and enemy.